Saturday, October 25, 2008


I'm Sorry that My Wife is Difficult

My wife’s pregnancy has created many new challenges for us. There’s the task of preparing for the future, usually meaning a change in plans from what is most enjoyable to what would be the most reliable financially. Then, there’s a change in shopping habits; for example, going from purchasing CDs which feature four guitar chords and a catchphrase chorus to classical selections designed to make the baby smarter, or at least less reliant on catchphrase choruses.

With the challenges also come the learning opportunities; and one of the first things we’ve learned is a definition of “morning sickness” that no encyclopedia, on or offline could provide. This knowledge comes quickly, too; one day my wife and I were newlyweds with no one but our futures to plan for, then one day she had a positive pregnancy test and the next morning I awoke to find her lying on the kitchen floor in pain.

“I’m very difficult this morning,” she said, in what is a direct translation from a grammatically correct Korean sentence. Of course, it got better (her condition, I mean, not her English fluency) in the days that followed; lately she has been able to at least make it to couch before collapsing.

I have since come to understand why the phrase “morning sickness” is tossed about and how it got its name; not because its symptoms are exclusive to the morning hours, but because that’s the one time when they're pretty much guaranteed to occur. This is apparently because it’s the longest period of time for her to have gone without eating, but otherwise there are no constraints as to when it will occur.

She sometimes calls me in the middle of the day when both of us are at work to tell me how difficult she is. When I come home at night I find her on the couch, ready to tell me about the degree of difficulty she experienced throughout the day. When we both have days off, it’s not uncommon for her to spend most of it on the couch, her difficulty preventing her from using her leisure hours more actively.

“I’m sorry,” I frequently tell her, both because I am largely responsible for her predicament, and because I can’t think of anything else that’s appropriate to say. Many other things come to mind, but they all date back to a pre-fatherhood mindset, thus making them inadvisable.

“Does this mean you won’t pack me a lunch?” I sometimes want to ask in the mornings.

“I’m guessing this means you’re not in the mood,” I sometimes consider saying in the evenings.

“It would be more correct to say, ‘This is very difficult for me,’” I think of saying in the middle of the day, when my language skills are sharpest. Due to my male instincts, such things will probably always be on my mind; I guess it’s a sign of maturity that I now know when it’s better not to say them out loud.

Being unfamiliar with how to respond to morning sickness, I need help. Fortunately, in our globally-connected world advice is only a desperate plea on Facebook away from receiving an answer. Parents, older sisters and other veterans of child expectancy are quick to chime in with remedies sent over the internet, or sometimes with just condolences, because there’s no guarantee the remedy will work.

“Tell her to suck on some Skittles,” some say, unaware that such products haven’t been widely available in Korea since the Clinton administration.

“Tell her to try some Zofran,” others say, unaware that prices for such drugs in this country might leave us with no money to pay for the actual baby.

“Tell her it gets better in the second trimester,” some say, and this actually feels like helpful information. At some point, maybe a couple of months from now, I’ll get my wife back, even if she will be coming in slightly rounder form, and we’ll be able to start planning for the greater difficulties ahead, such as actual childbirth.

My wife has already prepared a list of her language’s naughty words (some of which I have accidentally used while trying to express more benign concepts like “18” and “niece” through faulty Korean pronunciation) to use on me when she goes through labor. This seems especially likely if it’s a boy, and especially if he takes after me.

“How much did you weigh when you were born?” she asks now and then. I’m not sure why I have to keep telling her, but I think that it’s because in her metric system-using culture the words “10 pounds” have no meaning. When I convert it to a measurement she can understand, like 4.5 kilograms, I think that maybe she blocks it out sometime after the color drains from her face.

“I’m sorry,” I tell her, knowing the difficulty I’ve caused for her has only begun.

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